Understanding Society, Culture, and Television

By Paul Monaco | Go to book overview

7
Television and Advertising

McLuhan, Bandura, Gerbner, and Postman all have contributed significantly to how our culture commonly regards television. They provide perspectives that are basic to the contemporary criticism of this medium. It would not, however, be difficult to come up with the names of scores of other prominent thinkers and writers who hold ideas similar to theirs. At its heart, negative criticism of television is based upon the notion that humans are rendered helpless and hapless before the TV set. Television is perceived as powerful, hypnotic, and addictive. Television will hook you and hold you. The machine and its technology are capable of undermining our critical faculties. Hence, TV reigns havoc upon society and culture at large, and our relationship to TV is perilous. But this entire line of thinking poses a fundamental question: Are we really TV's victims, or has television simply become the handiest of scapegoats for contemporary cultural criticism?

The prevailing model for interpreting television's relationship to its audience is one in which viewers are defenseless. But this line of thinking ignores the complexity of anyone's relationship to whatever he or she sees and hears. The dynamic between any media and its audience is quite complex. To unravel that dynamic, let us focus on that form of communication in which a message is aimed directly toward a target audience, namely advertising.

All advertising demonstrates several characteristics, including being dependent upon repetition. The short length of advertising spots means not only that they come and go rapidly, but also that they are available to

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